Deforestation-Definition, Effects & Facts

Deforestation-Definition, Effects & Facts

Deforestation - Definition Effects & Facts      

by RWF Contributor Connor Tracy, Storrs Conneticut 

The only impression Robin Wade Furniture wants to leave on the planet is that of high-quality, long-lasting furniture.  That’s why RWF is committed to harvesting only wood found in a 60-mile radius, and using as much “rescue wood” (trees downed by storms and the like) as possible.  

Put simply, deforestation is the elimination of forests.  It most often occurs because of slash-and-burn agriculture, a type of farming in which farmers in developing nations each clear a few acres of forest by burning it, farm it for a few years, and then move on to another plot of land once the first one is spent.  The other major deforestation contributors are commercial agriculture and logging. Their effects are felt for years after the land is used.

When millions of plants all live and breathe together, such as in a rainforest, a “carbon sink” forms. A carbon sink is a location in which large amounts of CO2 can gather and be stored indefinitely.  Deforestation harms these carbon sinks by reducing the number of trees, and therefore allowing stored carbon to be released into the atmosphere. Because of this one-two punch, the ocean (the planet’s largest carbon sink) has to take on more and more of the environmental burden, slowly becoming more and more acidic.

The oceans’ acidic water turns into acid rain, which falls more heavily on deforested areas because of the cloud formations formed when carbon dioxide is released.  The rainfall is easily soaked up by the soil in places where trees are fewer.  This leads to soil erosion and increased flooding, making the land unfit for growing trees or crops.  Soil erosion is responsible for food crises in a number of small nations, as ever-larger floods have destroyed more crops, and made it harder to plant new ones.

Deforestation is a large contributor to climate change.  It is estimated that deforestation is responsible for 20% of man-made carbon emissions.  These emissions gather in the atmosphere and make it more difficult for heat to radiate into space: this is referred to as The Greenhouse Effect.  This effect causes the global average temperature to rise, resulting in more atmospheric energy, which means more extreme and violent weather such as hurricanes, blizzards, droughts, and deluges.

Humans aren’t the only creatures affected by deforestation.  An estimated 70% of the planet’s species live in rainforests (the forests most likely to be harvested).  The destruction of their habitat directly leads to the destruction of the species; some scientists believe that we may be killing off more species per year than we are discovering.  Lower biodiversity leads to, among other things, greater spread of disease, increasing chances of extinctions.

If deforestation continues at its present rate, most forests will be gone by the turn of the century.  RWF hopes to be a part of the change by providing an example of sustainable forestry practices.  We believe that, as responsible citizens of the Earth, every day should be Arbor Day.

Deforestation - Definition Effects & Facts